They say that fair weather never made a good sailor, and August has seen some good breezy races providing some good challenges and crazy fun.
The Swanage Sailing Club Regatta took place earlier this month which featured two days of high winds. There’s a nice write up here in Yachts and Yachting.
These were among the strongest conditions I’ve sailed in with force seven gusts and it was definitely full on.
I tried the Aero 5 sail (below) and it was manageable. The hard bit being very gusty, with a course set inshore and messy offshore wind over the town, was not being able to hike consistently. With the 5 sail there’ll be technique to improve, e.g. to counter the tippiness in lulls such as not over feathering.
Other than sailing, I’ve done loads of windsurfing the last weeks which works out a bunch of other muscles, and cardio at home. The next sailing event is in two weeks.
I had a play in the bay yesterday afternoon, there was sun and a bit of breeze. I used the Garmin Virb action cam and remembering to turn on GPS, got some data. Not seen here but I’m using it for some self coaching, trying out different things to see how speed is affected.
A fellow sailor snapped a couple pics of me from his paddleboard this week. It was around about 7am on a very light wind morning. What can I say? The Aero 9 is fast even in super light wind. It’s a revelation.
My impatience to try the 9 sail got ahead of me putting the sail numbers on, but this is 3328. 🙂
It was also a beautiful morning and I’m ever grateful to be able to do this.
I took delivery of an RS Aero recently and took the boat for the first real spin this morning. What a boat! So light, fast and responsive.
I reckon I’m a good weight for the Aero 7 and it was good to feel totally in control in the gusty conditions and play with the wind. Almost ironically, it’s much less effort to sail than the Vareo; gusts arrive, you feel the wind on the face and the boat instantly accelerates.
The sail controls just work and feel light and responsive. Upwind compared to anything else I’ve sailed was an absolute joy (and fast) and off wind the boat flies, and I mean flies.
Coming back to shore another Aero benefit became apparent, our slipway had a bar of sand and stones near the water’s edge but the boat and trolley are so light, recovery was super easy. No more risking back and knees.
In these current COVID-19 times where being safe and reducing risk is important (no one wants to cause RNLI or coastguard callouts), the RS Aero will increase my opportunities to sail and have fun on my own.
In line with government and RYA guidelines, our local sailing club is allowing a responsible return to sailing again. We’re all mindful not to put ourselves at risk in a way which might require an RNLI / coastguard call out, but it’s just a joy to get out again.
I’m a frequent solo sailor already and consider myself experienced and careful, so this doesn’t change too much for me but I am even more mindful of the conditions now. My favourite forecast remains the Met Office wind forecast because it’s so accurate and has a good gust forecast.
The picture above was taken after a long sail in late May 2020 in windy and gusty conditions where in the interest of risk reduction I used the storm sail. The storm sail has a 7m2 sail area vs 8.8m2 so produces much less power but the boat is much easier to control.
Normally I avoid the storm sail as it feels so underpowered but on this occasion it turned into a surprisingly good experience. I did lots of windward / leeward practice; the beat was easily manageable with board fully down, with boat moving just fine, and off wind with kite up the boat moved nicely too. Nothing crazy but satisfactory with a few grinning moments.
Reaching was a bit of a drag, though that might also have been the messy wind but the storm sail had me focusing hard on boat speed more rather than relying purely on raw wind power. This was good experience, and something I’ll happily do again. Getting more out of a smaller sail seems a good exercise in any case.
2019 has been a good year, I’ve done a ton of sailing throughout the whole year, passed my RYA Dinghy Instructor and have started winning the first races, also finishing in the top three for the series I entered.
Boat handling has improved considerably this year, I’m quite comfortable in much stronger and gusty weather conditions, I got the hang of the kite and have improved boatspeed quite a bit. I go sailing regularly on own super early before work or before breakfast on the weekends and enjoy being alone in the bay with the elements and seabirds. It’s always different.
The Vareo isn’t well suited to the trapezoid courses we tend to run at Swanage Sailing Club but nevertheless sailing with the kite up as much as possible has proven the key to moving up the places. The times I did capsize this year were all gybing with kite up in a blow, a bit of work is needed here.
It’s cool to be moving up the placements and also see the practice paying off, and also figure why things worked and why the hadn’t. Whilst I’ve had races where everything worked with large gaps between me and the next boat, apart from obvious impacts such as a poor start or not hiking hard enough, losing boatlengths seems to be the aggregation of small errors; a poor tack, missing a shift, a poor mark rounding, a slow spinnaker hoist, being caught in dirty wind, misjudged angles.
There have been some races this year over 5o minutes where I beat the next boat by only a couple of seconds or was beaten by a couple of seconds. It’s motivating to be closing the gap and know where improvements can be made. Those I practice 🙂
I see plenty of areas to improve; starts, tactics, working wind shifts and tides better, and 2020 will be the year I start open events. I had entered the POSH event at Paignton in 2019 but couldn’t make it in the end with vehicle failure, I won’t miss it next year. I’m looking forward to racing with more Vareos in 2020.
I made some learnings about series races too, simple stuff such as when to take or not take risks which could affect overall placement.
The Vareo is an absolute blast and I’m enjoying it a lot and I honestly wouldn’t want a boat without a kite now. Acquiring an Aero aluminium style launch trolley recently has made a huge difference to boat recovery and pulling it around the boat park, this was the only niggle before.
SSC ran a regatta again this summer which I took part in. Thirty three boats, five races over two days, each course different with good wind, building up on day two to quite frisky conditions. On the last race the daggerboard was humming in new tones I’d never heard before, it was that fast (grin!). Mine is 239.
There were two other Vareos which made for a bit of sub-fleet racing which was great fun.
Thanks Doug and team for running a fantastic regatta. Thanks Adrian for the fantastic pictures.